By DEBORAH GERTZ HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Trying to decorate for Christmas, Donna Smith headed out shopping in downtown Quincy.
She could have shopped anywhere, but she chose to support small businesses -- especially in honor of Small Business Saturday.
The annual promotion highlights the value those businesses provide to shoppers and the community.
"It brings awareness to the fact that there are a lot of specialty stores, not just big retailers," said Smith, a small business owner with her husband of TNT Action Sports. "Those are the stores that give to the community more often, so it is important to support them."
Tucked between the Black Friday sales and the Cyber Monday deals, Small Business Saturday highlights the businesses that play a vital role in creating jobs and economic opportunities. American Express launched the promotion in 2010 to help small businesses get more exposure during one of the biggest shopping weekends of the year.
"When we shop small, we not only get great products and services, but we support our neighbors and strengthen our local economies," wrote Karen Gordon Mills, administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, in a blog post in honor of the day.
Bobbie Rudd of rural Quincy doesn't need a special promotion. A self-proclaimed "downtown girl," she shops small year-round.
"I love the downtown. I love shopping here. It's more relaxed and casual, and yet you find the greatest items that you can't find anywhere else," Rudd said while shopping at Domestics Inc. "There's nothing wrong with big stores, but small businesses try harder, and for good reason. I just really like the attention and the customer service."
Starting her Christmas shopping, Rudd got a warm welcome from Domestics owner Joy Berhorst and her staff.
"I've never had a business here, never owned a business, but I always pick the small ones. Even if I travel, I look for small mom-and-pop home-owned type places, usually downtown in an older town like this. They're always fun to walk around," Rudd said.
Small Business Saturday is a great promotion for businesses like hers, Berhorst said, and she offered customers a drawing for gift certificates.
"That's something I don't have to call the corporate office and say, ‘Can I do this?' because as a small business owner you can make the decision right now," Berhorst said. "You can give back and show appreciation to your customers coming in right now. To me, it's all about the decision-making to make the customer want to come back to work with someone who's the owner and help them out."
Berhorst said the store has a loyal clientele, but the first customers in the door on Saturday were drawn by the small business promotion.
"They're not shopping every week, but they come see us once a year," she said. "We appreciate those people just as much."
Joshua Conboy said small businesses offer something bigger chains can't with more personal service and unique items.
"Usually, bigger box stores just sell what sells," he said. "Sometimes somebody's not looking for what's popular. They're looking for what's right for them."
A small business owner himself -- of Under Dark Comics and Games -- Conboy was out shopping in downtown Quincy.
"I thought I would return the favor today," he said.
Everything and the Kitchen Sink owner Cindy Rossiter said the day drew plenty of customers.
"It's all Christmas shopping, sometimes for themselves," Rossiter said. "It's been a very good day."
Quincyan Susan Feld was shopping with friends in Rossiter's business.
"It's sort of fun to see the stuff that big stores don't carry," Feld said on her first day of Christmas shopping. "We're out looking around, getting ideas, seeing what everybody would want. We're just enjoying the beautiful day, store to store."
Jeff Schuecking, owner of Schuecking Inc., expects the benefits of the promotion to last long past Saturday.
"The money that is spent at your local business, home-owned business, stays in your local economy, and people do not realize the impact that has compared to shopping at places that are not locally owned," he said. "When you spend your money locally, that money stays locally. It creates jobs for everybody."
Over the past two decades, small and new businesses have been responsible for creating two out of every three net new jobs in the U.S., Mills said, and today, more than half of all working Americans own or work for a small business.
"By shopping small, we can help America's small businesses do what they do best: grow their businesses, create good jobs and ensure that our communities are vibrant," she said. "Shop small this holiday season."